By Michelle Mady
Remember when your child was an infant and it was fun to think about what type of person they would be? I would sit with my baby in my arms as we cuddled, and I would imagine their first steps in a few months, their interests as a toddler, and even how they would handle an eventual younger sibling. I would imagine such a wonderful childhood to enjoy with my baby.
Then, we entered the toddler years, and my outlook for my child’s future changed a bit. I once thought my sweet baby might one day run a company, might rescue stranded animals, or perhaps find a cure for cancer. Now I worry that I am raising a selfish, not-so-nice thief. As I try to encourage my child to learn empathy during this very ego-centric age, I have started with sharing. With any luck, this will be our first step to get back that sweet baby.
So, how do you teach a child to share when all they scream is, “Mine!”?
Shift Your Role
When I am on the floor playing with the kids, I find myself being very much the adult, even in play. But by shifting my role and becoming a child in play, I can interact and model in a meaningful way. Ask for a turn. Offer a turn. By repeating “my turn” and “your turn” while handing a toy back and forth, it reinforces what taking turns actually means. Be sad when your turn is over, but find something else to play with. Then, when it is your turn again, show how happy that made you!
Ask for a turn. Offer a turn. By repeating “my turn” and “your turn” while handing a toy back and forth, it reinforces what taking turns actually means.
Use a Timer
Setting a timer to assist with taking turns helps to take away some need for control. When a toddler is told they have to take a turn, they feel that they are lacking the ability to make decisions and autonomy. However, if a timer goes off, alerting them that their turn is over, they tend to be much more amiable to the swap. Have them tell a device to set a timer, push the button to start the timer, or decide how many minutes to set the timer for. What’s more, if they are deciding how long to set the timer, give them two options; for example, I always ask if they want two or three minutes.
Lead Your Child & Siblings, Too
Sharing with a sibling can be a lot harder than sharing with anyone else. To support sharing between siblings, ensure there are enough toys or materials for sharing to happen, without one child getting the majority of a toy or material. I always become a somewhat of a news reporter for my children, talking through what is happening instead of directing them to what I want them to do. For example, I might say, “It looks like Aedan wants a turn with that toy. What can we do to help him?” and allow some time for thought. Then I can offer a suggestion like, “I wonder if the timer could help this situation.” Leading them to solve their own problem helps to support further social problem-solving skills.
I always become a somewhat of a news reporter for my children, talking through what is happening instead of directing them to what I want them to do.
Give a Toy a Break
This tactic comes directly from the book, “Llama Llama Time to Share” by Anna Dewdney. If you have troubles with sharing, I highly recommend the book. I recommend it from a parenting standpoint as much as it is a cute children’s story. In the story, Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu have a hard time sharing Llama’s toy during a playdate. So Mama Llama puts it away until the two can decide to share it together.
Sometimes if a toy creates strong feelings, it needs a break. You can tell your child, “It looks like dolly is creating some drama, I am going to put her away so she can take a break.” To be honest, I take a lot of parenting advice from Mama Llama, so I highly recommend reading these books from a parent’s perspective.
Sharing can be really hard. And although I worry about how my toddler will grow, I can take solace in the fact that his brain is just not developed enough to understand sharing. So, instead of preparing for a child living a life of crime, I will support my child’s social development and empathy by teaching some sharing skills.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/Dejan_Dundjerski